Laura Hutchinson and her daughter Ava Saba who is taking part in this year’s Nippers programme. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND

Student looks up to lifeguards

Emily Ireland

If you ask Ava Saba who she looks up to in life, she’ll tell you it’s the lifeguards at Riversdale Beach.

Ava, who has Down Syndrome, is a 12-year-old Masterton Intermediate School pupil, and after seeing the lifeguards in action this summer, she was quick to find out how she could become one too.

In fact, after less than a week of Nippers training, she has become a lifeguard already – or at least that is what she tells her mum Laura Hutchinson.

Ava is one of about 200 youngsters who have been spending their summer holidays learning beach safety skills and fitness through the Riversdale Surf Life Saving Club’s 2018 Gazley Nippers Programme.

Nippers aims to build children’s confidence in the sea, with qualified lifeguards teaching them fundamental water safety skills.

“The other day at the beach, Ava decided that she wanted to be a lifeguard after watching the lifeguards all day,” Laura said.

“So she bowled up to Mike, the club captain, and said to him ‘I’m going to be a lifeguard’.

He told her if that was the case that she needed to go into the Nippers programme.

“So off she went, ready to go, the switch flicked, and now she’s away.

“She’s into it – Nippers every morning.

“She thinks it’s really awesome and she tells me she is a lifeguard already – Two days of Nippers and she’s in,” Laura said.

She was pleased that the club was actively encouraging people of all ages and abilities to become surf savvy.

“It was never an issue that Ava could or couldn’t do it – it was just straight into it. The instructors have been awesome, making sure she understands the games and what everyone’s doing.

“I’m super stoked – a very proud mum.”